Obesity Measures in Relation to Cognition in the Northern Manhattan Study

Hannah Gardener, Michelle Caunca, Chuanhui Dong, Ying Kuen Cheung, Tatjana Rundek, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, Clinton B Wright, Ralph L. Sacco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Mid-life obesity is associated with cognitive impairment, though the relationship for late-life obesity is equivocal, and may depend on the anthropometric measure. Objective: We examined the relationship between adiposity and cognition across age categories, cognitive domains, and by measures of obesity in a multi-ethnic population-based cohort. Methods: The study included 1,179 Northern Manhattan Study participants with obesity measures at baseline (44% overweight, 30% obese), an initial neuropsychological assessment conducted within 7 years (mean age=70), and a second cognitive assessment conducted on average 6 years later. Z-scores were derived for cognitive domains (episodic and semantic memory, executive function, processing speed) and averaged to calculate global cognition. Body mass index (BMI) and waist:hip ratio (WHR) were examined in relation to cognitive performance and change over time, stratified by age, using linear regression models adjusting for vascular risk factors. Results: Among those age<65 years at baseline, greater WHR was associated with worse global cognitive performance at initial assessment and directly associated with decline in performance between assessments. The association with initial performance was strongest for non-Hispanic Whites (beta=-0.155/standard deviation, p=0.04), followed by non-Hispanic Black/African Americans (beta=-0.079/standard deviation, p=0.07), and Hispanics (beta=-0.055/standard deviation, p=0.03). The associations were most apparent for the domains of processing speed and executive function. There was no association for BMI among those <65 years. Among those age ≥65, there was no association for BMI or WHR with cognitive performance at initial assessment nor decline over time. Conclusion: Our results support the detrimental effect of mid-life rather than later life obesity, particularly abdominal adiposity, on cognitive impairment and decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1653-1660
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Adiposity
  • cognition
  • cognitive dysfunction
  • epidemiology
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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